Paris, Oct 12 (IANS) French President Francois Hollande has said that talks with Russia over major differences on Syria were necessary but must be “frank and firm” to stop the five-year civil war which has claimed up to 500,000 victims.
“With Russia, France has a major disagreement on Syria and the Russia veto on the French resolution at the UN Security Council has prevented the cessation of bombings and truce’s proclamation,” Xinhua news agency quoted Hollande as saying on Tuesday.
“The main victims are the civilian populations. That’s why I consider it is necessary to have dialogue with Russia, but it must be firm and frank, otherwise it has no place and it is a sham negotiation,” he said.
In a speech at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Hollande said he was “ready to meet (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin at any moment” if they “can make progress on peace, stop bombing and declare a truce”.
Putin has cancelled his visit to France scheduled for October 19 due to changes in the agenda, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
“The president has decided to cancel the visit, as some of the planned activities related to the opening of the Russian cultural and spiritual center and an exhibition, unfortunately, have been dropped out of the programme,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
But he added that Putin was ready to pay a visit to France “whenever it will be comfortable to (French) President (Francois) Hollande”, while declining to specify the reason for changes in the programme.
Moscow’s decision came after the Elysee proposed a working meeting only to discuss the Syrian civil war and excluded other topics.